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Are closely-held firms tax shelters?

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In 2004 Norwegian authorities announced a reform introducing dividend taxation for personal (but not corporate) owners to take effect starting in 2006. This change provided incentives to maximize dividends in 2004 and 2005, and to retain earnings in the following years. Using Norwegian registry data that cover the universe of non-publicly traded firms, we find that dividend payments responded very strongly to the anticipated reform, but also that much of the response was compensated by reinjecting shareholder equity in the same firms. On the other hand, following the reform firms began to retain earnings. While all categories of assets grow, the increase in durable assets categories that include equipment, machinery, company cars, planes and boats, is particularly striking. We find that personally owned firms and those that pursued aggressive dividend maximization policy in anticipation of the reform exhibit lower profits and economic activity in its aftermath, but retain earnings and accumulated assets at comparable or faster rate than others. The differential effect on assets is concentrated in financial (a potential substitute for private saving) and durable (a potential substitute for private consumption) asset categories. We interpret these results as indicating both the existence of real tax responses and supportive of the notion that in the presence of dividend taxation closely-held firms partially serve as tax shelters.

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  • Annette Alstadsæter & Wojciech Kopczuk & Kjetil Telle, 2013. "Are closely-held firms tax shelters?," Discussion Papers 764, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:ssb:dispap:764
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    1. Annette Alstadsæter & Wojciech Kopczuk & Kjetil Telle, 2019. "Social networks and tax avoidance: evidence from a well-defined Norwegian tax shelter," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 26(6), pages 1291-1328, December.
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    7. Jacob, Martin & Alstadsæter, Annette, 2013. "Payout policies of privately held firms: Flexibility and the role of income taxes," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 152, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
    8. Korkeamaki, Timo & Liljeblom, Eva & Pasternack, Daniel, 2010. "Tax reform and payout policy: Do shareholder clienteles or payout policy adjust?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 572-587, September.
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    11. Thor O. Thoresen & Annette Alstadsæter, 2010. "Shifts in Organizational Form under a Dual Income Tax System," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 66(4), pages 384-418, December.
    12. Romanov, Dmitri, 2006. "The corporation as a tax shelter: Evidence from recent Israeli tax changes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(10-11), pages 1939-1954, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fagereng, Andreas & Halvorsen, Elin, 2017. "Imputing consumption from Norwegian income and wealth registry data," Journal of Economic and Social Measurement, IOS Press, issue 1, pages 67-100.
    2. Moortgat, Leentje & Annaert, Jan & Deloof, Marc, 2017. "Investor protection, taxation and dividend policy: Long-run evidence, 1838–2012," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 113-131.
    3. Annette Alstadsæter & Wojciech Kopczuk & Kjetil Telle, 2019. "Social networks and tax avoidance: evidence from a well-defined Norwegian tax shelter," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 26(6), pages 1291-1328, December.
    4. Wojciech Kopczuk & Eric Zwick, 2020. "Business Incomes at the Top," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 34(4), pages 27-51, Fall.
    5. Hargaden, Enda Patrick, 2020. "Taxpayer responses in good times and bad," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 653-690.
    6. Annette Alstadsæter & Martin Jacob & Wojciech Kopczuk & Kjetil Telle, 2016. "Accounting for Business Income in Measuring Top Income Shares: Integrated Accrual Approach Using Individual and Firm Data from Norway," NBER Working Papers 22888, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. José María Durán-Cabré & Alejandro Esteller-Moré & Mariona Mas-Montserrat, 2019. "Behavioural responses to the (re)introduction of wealth taxes. Evidence from Spain," Working Papers 2019/04, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Tax; Tax shelter; Firm;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • H32 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Firm
    • H26 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Tax Evasion and Avoidance

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